DENVER (CBS4) – The parents of a 5-month-old Colorado baby recovering from botulism are warning others about the fairly rare and potentially fatal disease.

Keona Hinkel has been on a breathing machine at the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children for two weeks but doctors said Wednesday that she’s improving.

“Seeing her like this is heartbreaking for me,” said Keona’s father Brian Hinkel.

“We wish we could hold her because I know that would be really comforting to her,” said Keona’s mother Kari Hinkel.

Botulism is caused by bacteria that grow inside a baby’s gastrointestinal tract. They can come from spores in contaminated soil or honey or having infrequent bowel movements.

No one is exactly sure how the baby picked up the bacteria.

Doctors think indirect honey exposure or contaminated soil from a home under renovation may have caused Keona’s botulism.

She wasn’t fed honey but mother Kari said that she cooked with honey. It’s possible she touched her daughter with it or it got on her pacifier. The immune systems of babies under a year old can’t fight spores in honey.

It all started on New Year’s night when Keona started having a hard time sucking and swallowing. On Jan. 2 her doctor sent her to an emergency room. It was there that Keona stopped breathing.

“We had no idea what was happening,” said Kari.

That was when Keona was hooked up to a ventilator and airlifted to the Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children.

Doctors suspected infant botulism, paralysis that progresses from head to toe.

“If it’s not caught early on she could have quit breathing early on and she could have died from this,” said Dr. Tracy Butler with Rocky Mtn. Hospital for Children.

The primary medication used to treat botulism was flown in from California. That’s because infant botulism is rare.

Doctors expect a full recovery.

Kari is looking forward to seeing her daughter smile again, “I really miss that so I can’t wait until she does it again.”

The Hinkels want parents to be careful. Children less than one year of age should not ingest honey and don’t expose them to dust and dirt.

If you notice your infant is breathing slowly, has sagging eyelids, a weak cry and the baby appears “floppy” seek medical help immediately.

LINK: Keona’s Facebook Page

Make donations at or give at a Wells Fargo Bank under the name of Keona Hinkel.


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